Stopping marine plastic pollution at its source

The Ocean Cleanup project goes from collecting marine plastic waste at sea to stopping it at its source with a new river barrier technology.

Many may recall the teenager founder of Ocean Cleanup, Boyan Slatt, on TED Talks pitching the idea of using a fleet of wide, u-shaped barriers pulled by ships to collect marine plastic waste.

If this technology was scaled up, he claimed, we could effectively tackle marine plastic waste in “the largest cleanup in history.” Ten years later and following multiple failures and reiterations, its S03 system is up and actively collecting trash from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Emboldened by its successes at sea, Ocean Cleanup now sets its sights closer to the source: Rivers. The first prototype, “TrashFence,” attempted to stop the flow of trash down the Rio Las Vacas just outside of Guatemala City. But strong river currents soon caused it to breach.

Never ones to give up so easily, the Ocean Cleanup team has spent the last year back at the drawing board, identifying and engineering out the flaws of the prototype. Its second attempt, “Interceptor Barricade,” is now set for round two.

At time of writing, this two-pronged strategy of oceans and rivers has removed 7,395,373 kg of waste. Ocean Cleanup estimates that with 10 fleets of its u-barriers at sea and with Interceptors at the mouths of the world’s 1000 most polluting rivers, up to 90% of marine plastic waste can be removed by 2040. This would bring Boyan Slatt within reach of his ultimate vision to sunset the organization – once the oceans are clean.


Photo: Ocean Cleanup


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